By Mark Huelsing

I have been contributing to Wired to Hunt for several months now, and hopefully that means that I am a part of the family, because there are a few things that I want to talk about today that are controversial.  Now, I say that I hope I am considered part of the “family” because context matters and because relationship matters.  The concerns and critiques that I bring up today aren’t coming as an attack from an outsider.  In fact this isn’t an attack at all, just some concerns that a member of the “whitetail hunting family” has about our future.

I am concerned about the future of hunting.  I’m not trying to be apocalyptic; in fact, there are a lot of positive trends happening right now that are helping strengthen the future of hunting, at least temporarily.  But, the fact of the matter is, there are some large issues that should be concerning.

Have you ever stopped to notice that something is always being built?  Either a new home development is going up, or a new office complex, or a strip mall, or a highway is being expanded?  This is happening every day, all across the country.  And guess what?  Once concrete is poured and wildlife habitat is lost, that habitat won’t be coming back.  Ever.

Other segments of the broader hunting community, such as big game hunters out west, are concerned with these issues and many of them are actively working on these problems.  These hunters rely on large tracts of public land to support wildlife and provide them with opportunities to hunt.  But those of us not in the west, those of us that have private property, exclusive leases, or are used to hunting whitetails in a suburban context – we don’t care.  At least most of us don’t care enough to do anything about it.

I am a proud member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), but I’ve never hunted elk, nor do I live in the region of the country where they do the majority of their work.  So, why do I send them money?  Because they are doing invaluable work to protect the habitat of wild game and ensure that the public has access to hunt on, hike on, fish on, and in other ways enjoy such lands.

The RMEF has conserved or enhanced over 6 million of acres for wildlife.  (And they do much more work in the Midwest and eastern portions of the country than people realize!)  The RMEF is literally protecting the future of hunting – and though it may not have a direct effect on my deer lease, or the quality of my local whitetail population, or my chances of harvesting a 150” buck – it is still work that all of the hunting community should consider supporting.

A large portion of the whitetail community is interested in herd management, habitat improvement, and other types of quality deer management practices, but unfortunately these practices are often limited in scope – only improving your hunting on your land.  I guess that is part of the point I am trying to make; there is too much focus on individual hunting, and far too little attention given to the larger issues that are going to jeopardize the future of hunting.

This past week the United States Senate had a procedural vote on the Sportsman’s Act – a bi-partisan bill that was backed by both sides of the aisle, as well as supported by a wide variety of groups that don’t often see eye-to-eye.  (When is the last time that the Whitehouse and the NRA agreed on something?)  However, this bill failed to pass the procedural vote because of – you guessed it –political drama.  The Sportsman’s Act of 2012 is probably the greatest piece of hunting and fishing legislation that this generation will see, and it has fallen victim to a broken political system.

Did you know that happened?  If so, did it make it make you mad?  Or where you more upset with your neighbor because he shot a 2-year-old buck and you are trying to let the herd mature?

Are you content to sit by and let politicians determine the future of hunting, wildlife habitat, and access to public lands? Or are you just too focused on your hunting – planting food plots, hinge-cutting timber for bedding areas, and trying to “grow” a record book buck.

Join the Quality Deer Management Association, they do some great things, but don’t neglect other organizations that are protecting hunting’s future, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

I hope you get that ‘Booner someday, but my real hope is that you work to strengthen and secure hunting’s future, and not just work to put a set of antlers in your hands.

 – Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors.  If he is not bowhunting, then he is planning towards it, training for it, and writing about it at SoleAdventure.com